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Does grapefruit really interact with medications? (See also....)
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Can foods low in Vitamin K still affect my INR levels?
It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
My husband takes a very low dose of simvastatin for his cholesterol. I know that people on cholesterol meds should not drink grapefruit juice. Is it OK for him to eat Honeybells? They are tangelos, which is a hybrid between tangerines and pomelo or grapefruit.
The research shows that oranges and citrus other than grapefruit are not an issue -- it is a substance in the grapefruit itself, called furanocoumarins, that interacts with enzymes that are involved in metabolization of medications such as simvastatin (and many others).
Given that tangelos are a hybrid of grapefruit I would usually suggest to my patients that they avoid them, given the known issue with grapefruit. The good news, however, is that a study reported in the Journal of Food Science in 2005 and funded by the US Department of Agriculture (citation here) has shown that tangelos do not contain furanocoumarins and should be safe.
If you’re on any medications, you need to be sure to tell your doctor what other medications or supplements you’re using, as you can never be sure what might cause an interaction. The Center for Food-Drug Interaction Research and Education has a searchable database at http://www.druginteractioncenter.org that can help you discover any interactions with medications you are taking.
Thanks for writing,
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
PS: Here's more information about grapefruit and medications.